Skip to Main Content

Business Signage and its Interesting History

News Categories

Business signage is commonplace now. We have grown so used to them that, if they were to suddenly fall out of fashion, society would likely find itself immersed in a state of panic. In our home towns, we would probably not have much trouble navigating to our favorite stores and restaurants, but consider how traveling would change.

How would you find a place to eat? Get gas? Rent a room?

Business signage hasn’t always been as boisterous as it is today, but it’s a concept nearly as old as time.

The First Signs

The first instances of business signage were found in Ancient Rome and Greece. There, communities used signs to indicate the locale of events and markets with individual symbols meant to denote various types of businesses and entertainment.

Some of these symbols are still commonplace. For example, how do you think Ancient Romans signaled the location of someone qualified to cut hair? If you guessed they used red and white painted poles, you’re correct!

Later, business signage began evolving. Where signs had previously only indicated locations, businesses began using them to advertise, as well. One of the earliest instances of this took place in Ancient China, with a poster that read, “Jinan Liu’s Fine Needle Shop: We buy high-quality steel rods and make fine quality needles, to be ready for use at home in no time.”

As times changed, so did signage. By 1700, almost every business was using at least one sign for advertising and display purposes. Signs also became more artistic, boasting a variety of colors and some even were done with gold foiling, which was the highest quality signage one could acquire at the time.

Jumping Forward

In the 1800s, lighting came onto the scene and changed business signage forever. The first to implement lighting in their signage were casinos and movie theaters. At that time, they used gas lit signs.

In 1879, the invention of the light bulb allowed signs to be powered by electricity, rather than gas. It was a much safer lighting source, which attracted more businesses to take on this type of signage.

In the 1920’s, neon signs began popping up. Because neon signs were gas powered, they turned the lighting source curve backwards and, by 1930, gas lights were once again the industry standard.

However, this was short lived due to accidents and fires, prompting a quick move back to electric lighting which was also cheaper to maintain.

By the end of WWII, sign shops were common place and the introduction of plastics and fluorescent lighting prompted a lot of friendly competition in the business signage market.


Digital signage was conceptualized in the 80s and 90s by creative business owners, who used large televisions in store front windows to display VHS and then DVD advertisements.

Soon, sign companies were building off the idea to make something even better for their consumers. Today, digital signage is much more cost effective and impressive than ever before.

In fact, a recent industry report by TMR states that 76% of surveyed people said they have entered a store simply because the digital signage was compelling.

Nobody Knows Business Signage Like Persona

If you are shopping business signage, give Persona a call. We are leaders in the industry and signage is one of our specialties! We can’t wait to wow you with our offerings.

With 38 years of experience and serving more than 200 name-brand companies at more than 7,000 locations across North America each year, Persona is your premiere signage vendor. If you’re interested in updating your signage package or just want to learn more, give us a call today!